Show: Sunday, December 8, 2PM at the Kodak Theatre
Clara: Sandra Brown
Nucracker Prince: Sascha Radetsky
Drosselmeyer: Guillaume Graffin
Sugar Plum Doll: Misty Copeland
Toy Soldier Doll: Carlos Lopez
Snowflakes: Erin Ackert, Maria Bystrova, Amanda Cobb, Carmen Corella, Ashley Ellis, Elizabeth Gaither, Yuriko Kajiya, Simone Messmer, Luciana Paris, Renata Pavam, Carrie Peterson, Angela Snow, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Melissa Thomas, Kelley Waddell, Jennifer Whalen
Snow Queen: Anna Liceica
Sugar Plum Fairy: Stella Abrera
Cavalier: Carlos Molina
Seeking their annual fix of ballet magic on a Sunday afternoon, Nutcracker showgoers made the lobby of the Kodak Theatre an improbable contrast to its slick, synthetic Hollywood Boulevard surroundings of a sidewalk of stars with street vendors hawking maps to the homes of movie stars, a kitsch faux-Chinese movie theater, and an elephant statue that would better belong in Las Vegas. Would American Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker once again cast its spell successfully, and offer its audience a real piece of wonder?
Through a couple of pieces, some outstanding solo dancing, and good corps work, ABT succeeded very well. At the top of the list is the corps dancing in the Land of the Snow. Suggesting swirling snow flurries better than any stage effect, the dancing and the soft, romantic tutus of the all-female corps group worked in concert with fast, but fairly simple, and very musical choreography to fill the stage with living, moving snowfall. A steel-limbed Anna Liceica with sharp, precise technique added the requisite iciness to the soft snow as the Snow Queen. I found myself holding my breath throughout the piece, and was so fascinated by the movement that I often forgot about Sandra Brown's Clara and Sascha Radetsky's Nutcracker Prince, who were dancing away in the snow.
This doesn't mean Brown's dancing was anonymous. Brown's smallish size helped her fit in with the children on-stage, though her studied movement and polished technique made her stand out as more of an experienced older sister to the other kids. Her battement derriere into arabesque was especially beautiful, suggesting long and soft graceful lines, working in concert with the soft drape of her nightgown.
Radetsky offered solid, but unspectacular dancing. The many complicated and difficult lifts in Act I felt complicated and difficult. He didn't place a technical step wrong, but did not inspire with his dancing.
The other Act I highlight is Carlos Lopez's short dance as the Toy Soldier Doll. Characterized by sharp, fast, and almost machine-like beats and small jumps, Lopez, along with Misty Copeland's Sugar Plum Doll dance, was welcome relief in the overdrawn first scene introducing Clara and her family, which was made longer by being almost devoid of substantial dancing.
Act II offered Stella Abrera as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Carlos Molina as her long- and plastic-limbed cavalier. Abrera had good technique in a solid balance and fully articulated feet and arms even in the fastest choreography. Molina supported her well, and was light and looked effortless in his solo work.
Of the various national dances, Erica Cornejo's and Isaac Stappas' sensual, adult Arabian adagio with some truly difficult partnering moves made for edge-of-the-seat excitement.
The corps once again danced well in the Waltz of the Flowers, and, when they didn't upstage the soloists sharing the stage with them, were their equal.
The Pacific Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Barker, provided solid accompaniment, even though there were a few technical problems in some of the solo work. The orchestra provided flowing accounts of the more melodious moments, but could have more sharply characterized some of the faster music. For example, the Russian dance, and much of the music in the first scene of Act I were too soft in their attacks, relegating the music, which was also somewhat soft in volume, to background accompaniment.
The sets were appropriately colorful and festive. Especially memorable are the blooming flowers as winter turned into spring, and the successful suggestion of Clara shrinking down to mouse scale. Costumes were rich and colorful, except for the Act II unicorn which somehow looked slightly bare and incomplete.
ABT's Nutcracker succeeds in the most important sense --- transmitting the wonder of the Nutcracker through its dancing, especially its corps dancing. Having that is enough to make any other concerns about the production minor in comparison. Go see it.
<small>[ 12-08-2002, 23:42: Message edited by: Andre Yew ]</small>